My roots run so deep, yet being born here, I have felt myself lose touch with my Latin heritage in ways that, honestly, kind of scare me. Being able to share that experience and talk about how Americanization and religious majority culture has impacted us all really established a sense of trust and community through shared experience though we were all impacted in different ways. In my third year working with the Interfaith Center, I still am constantly in awe of how powerful this work can truly be. I was able to hear from perspectives that I hadn’t had contact with and also connect to their personal experiences whether about their religious or non-religious identity or their cultural experiences. It was especially intriguing to hear one of our students share her experience as a Muslim with Colombian roots. She shared how there was disinterest and lack of engagement from her family in her religious practices though she had made efforts to learn and participate in theirs. Many of those in the room could empathize with this dilemma and were able to share connections with familial conflict and minority worldviews being seen as “less than.” Hearing friends, students, and faculty come together and share vulnerable stories from their own perspective and then connect and reflect with those in the room was inspiring and reaffirmed the need for spaces like the Interfaith Center to be a hub for progressive change.
After the event, we got a lot of feedback about turning this into a series. I think that cultivating a space for Spanish speakers is incredibly necessary and I can’t wait to hold space for these amazing conversations between religious and non-religious students. This interfaith space shows that, though different, we all share common threads that lead to understanding and even friendship, and as minority students, we could all use some more of that. “Café y Conversación” could be the beginning of an era where University of North Florida and the Interfaith Center partner up and shine light on underrepresented students that have already shone in the shadow of the majority, and for that, I am truly excited.